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Unvarnished honesty

Sadie Switchblade confesses hard truths on Up Against The Bricks

Sadie Switchblade’s G.L.O.S.S. may have disbanded, but she still has lots to say. Photo credit:

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Fame can have a drastic effect on anyone that approaches its proximity. Some people slam up against brick walls trying to capture fame, and some retreat into the shadows in an effort to avoid it. There are artists that languish in fame's thick sludge for decades, their limbs atrophying, growing useless and ill-equipped to handle a world without success; once fame has wrung them dry, these people reenter a world that has long ago passed them by. Still, some people seem perfectly happy in the limelight - can you imagine a world where Paul McCartney retired from public eye to get back to work in Liverpool?

Olympia feminist punk band G.L.O.S.S. recently found themselves on the precipice of fame, having been offered a $50,000 record deal with Epitaph. In a move that garnered them even more attention, G.L.O.S.S. turned the offer down and, just a couple weeks later, announced that they would be disbanding. Frontwoman Sadie Switchblade explained the decision to Maximum Rock'n'Roll, saying, "The punk we care about isn't supposed to be about getting big or becoming famous, it's supposed to be about challenging ourselves and each other to be better people."

Setting aside issues some bands have about selling out or being bought, what Switchblade seems to be intimating is that making music for its own sake doesn't really require anyone other than the artists and the audience. Thankfully, Sadie Switchblade isn't shying away from being a creator, having recently released a second album under her Dyke Drama moniker - what was once a side project, now currently her main project.

For those only familiar with G.L.O.S.S., hearing Switchblade's output as Dyke Drama may be a little jarring. Up Against The Bricks, like its predecessor Tender Resignation, eschews hardcore punk in favor of rollicking barroom rock and teary-eyed singer-songwriter journaling. The first song, "Rolling Tears," begins with a feint at quiet acoustic balladry before erupting into a rousing singalong that explores the concept that best intentions might not matter so much in the face of hurting someone you love. It's an open-hearted number, and a good indicator of the sheer amount of honesty Switchblade is willing lay on the line. "Crying in a Bathroom Stall," as one might expect, follows up on this soul-bearing, even as it's accompanied by vibrant pop-punk.

Even when Switchblade touches on slightly more political subject matter - a lyrical penchant of G.L.O.S.S. - there's still a backbone of personal insight. On "Cis Girls," Switchblade, a trans woman, confesses to still feeling and being treated as a romantic inferior, saying, "You say I'm second to none, but I'm still second to one." "You Can't Count On Me" opens with a shout of "F@#&* the music industry," and contains Switchblade saying that she'd "rather warm a bench than hang out in the major leagues," but it still could stand as a breakup song.

Much of Up Against The Bricks feels like a breakup album, in fact (and, despite one line singling out the music industry, this feels like a more street-level breakup). A lot of the songs address an unseen "you," and Switchblade eventually drops all remaining pretense of maintaining her cool by covering Lucinda Williams' heartrending "I Just Wanted To See You So Bad." The final blow comes with "Some Days I Load My Gun," an almost-too-intimate confession of wanting to end it all - not because she wants to go, but because life can be too hard.

Sadie Switchblade, far from fleeing the music scene, has only cemented herself further with the a fantastic album that offers an unvarnished glimpse into her heart. Who needs to be famous when you can show yourself to the world with such art and truth?

Sadie Switchblade, All Ages, w/ Box Fan, the Lightheads, the Dazies, 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 30, $5, Le Voyeur, 404 E. 4th Ave, Olympia, 360.943.5710

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